Using your Flourish Journal to record ordinary experiences can bring unexpected joy

Using your Flourish Journal to record ordinary experiences can bring unexpected joy

“Don’t unthinkingly discard parts of your life. Record your ordinary moments in your Flourish Journal.” Story Pieces

In general, people are much more oriented to the future than the past. This means that once we have experienced something, particularly something mundane, it is gone – we have lived through it and don’t look back; our experiences become lost to us. These are our throw away memories. We are unthinkingly discarding parts of our lives as we rush on to the next shiny thing.

We are often told that it is the journey that matters not the destination but, in reality, it is the journey that we are discarding. What if we were to record our ordinary moments? How might our lives be different?

Research suggests that recording our ordinary everyday experiences could bring us unexpected joy. Ting Zhang and her colleagues conducted a study where they put volunteers through a series of experiments designed to find out how they thought about ordinary and extraordinary experiences. In one experiment, volunteers were asked to write about a conversation they had, rate how extraordinary it was, and predict how much they would enjoy reading about it in the future. When they were contacted 7 months later, volunteers found that they were more interested in reading about their conversations than they predicted, more so for those rated ordinary than extraordinary.

In another experiment, Dr Zhang and colleagues asked volunteers who were in a relationship to write about what they did and how they felt on Valentine’s Day and on a non-Valentine’s Day. Again, participants rated how extraordinary each experience was and how much they thought they would enjoy reading about it in the future. Researchers found that ordinary experiences became perceived as more extraordinary over time but the perception of extraordinary experiences did not change much with time.

This research suggests that, in addition to recording extraordinary experiences, it is valuable to also record ordinary day-to-day events. However, researchers are not clear on the best way to record these events. Should we write about the events after they have happened? Should we take photographs and videos or even create a quick sketch?

Perhaps the key is to do what feels right for you. Describe ordinary events in detailed paragraphs or in poetry, use devices of creative writing such as metaphor. Add personal photographs, news clippings or drawings. Use your Flourish Journal to create a rich tapestry of daily life. This helps you to consolidate what you have done with your day.

But even more importantly, it gives you something to look back on. This last part is crucial. We gain joy from ordinary experiences by reviewing them and reliving them. Therefore, it is essential to incorporate some way of looking back over these memories. A simple way of doing this, could be to start each Monday by picking a daily journal entry at random, read over what you have written, and take the time to savour the moment and reminisce.

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